Summer break is gone and we are finally starting the second half of the season in one of the favorite track for most of the drivers: Spa Francorchamps. The circuit is located in Belgium, surrounded by spectacular landscapes, Ardennes forest, and it’s the longest track of the calendar.
It was designed in 1920 and the first Grand Prix there was already held in 1924. Back then, Spa was 14’1 km long. The track ran across the public roads of the area, making it quite dangerous. Until 1970 minor changes were made and it was lightly shortened, but it wasn’t until 1978 (after having been cancelled during many years, that real changes appeared. Many drivers had lost their lives there so it was completely necessary to rethink the circuit. New track was half of the length, 7 km, but it still had the most representative parts like Eau Rouge, Raidillon, Les Combes, Malmedy or La Source. The abandoned parts remain as public roads now.
Spa has always been one of the fastest tracks, surpassed only by Monza. Drivers get to 300 km/h in more than three times. One of them, in the mythical corner Eau Rouge, due to the huge amount of downforce that F1 cars have. The 2005 and 2006 F1 World Champion Fernando Alonso explains: "You come into the corner downhill, have a sudden change [of direction] at the bottom and then go very steep uphill. From the cockpit, you cannot see the exit and as you come over the crest, you don't know where you will land. It is a crucial corner for the timed lap, and also in the race, because you have a long uphill straight afterwards where you can lose a lot of time if you make a mistake. But it is also an important corner for the driver's feeling. It makes a special impression every lap, because you also have a compression in your body as you go through the bottom of the corner. It is very strange – but good fun as well."
Kimi Räikkönen is the driver in the current grid who has the largest number of wins in Spa, with 4 in 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2009. After him comes Sebastian Vettel with 2, in 2011 and 2013. Massa, Hamilton and Button also know how it feels to win in this track.
The lap record is held by Sebastian Vettel who made a lap in 1.47.263 back in 2009.
The Belgian circuit has 19 corners, 9 to the right, 10 to the left. First one, La Source, is a hairpin right after the start straight. This is a good overtaking point if one driver is able to rush braking. It is followed by a down slope which binds to Eau Rouge and Raidillon. After this, it comes the Kemmel straight, which ends in Les Combes and Malmedy chicane. Drivers have another good opportunity to overtake there if they have enough power in Kemmel’s. Then, there is a short straight before corner number 8, Rivage, that brings us to another straight which leads to corners number 10 and 11. The last sector is a sequence of fast corners until the last chicane before the start straight. The circuit is a mix of slow and fast corners with corrugated surfaces that make it a difficult track, putting severe pressure on both driver and car.
Another thing to keep in mind is the weather, since the sun can shine in one sector and rain in another one. This issue makes the tires election very important. Pirelli is bringing soft and medium tires for this track.
The car configuration is very important as well. Low downforce helps the cars through the fast parts but high downforce is much better for sector number two, the one with more slow corners. The breaking stability and traction for the corner exit is also something too have in account.
Drivers will make a total of 44 laps, which make 308 km. FIA has designed two DRS zones. First detection point will be before Eau Rouge and activation zone will be in Kemmel’s straight. Second activation point will be before the last chicane and activation zone in the start straight.
We will have to see if after the summer break, Mercedes continue with their overwhelming dominance or something has changed in this weeks. We will have the answers from tomorrow on.
FP1 Friday 22 10.00h
FP2 Friday 22 14.00h
FP3 Saturday 23 11.00h
Qualifying Saturday 23 14.00h
Race Sunday 24 14.00h